Jailhouse Controversy in Gaines County

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Many people in Gaines Cunty agree, it's time for a new jail. The current one is so overcrowded, the county is sending inmates to other jails, so county officials decided to build a new one.

"We do need jail facilities, it's just how much and at what cost that we're concerned about," Seminole Resident Jim Caton, who's circulating a petition, said.

Gaines County Commissioners decided to build a new jail on property about a mile and a half North of Seminole. If they use a certificate of obligation, it will cost the county $13.5 million.

"The problem is, people don't get to vote," Caton said.

Last week, the Commissioners Court decided to pay for the new jail using certificates of obligation. Judge Keyes tells NewsWest 9 construction costs are going up, and they need to move fast.

"We don't really care how the people vote, we're just concerned that this 96 bed facility has been imposed on us, and we don't have a choice without an election," Caton said.

Some voters think instead of building a new jail expanding the current jail would save more money.

"So far, they won't consider expanding it," Caton said. "From what I hear, that's what people want, expanding it."

NewsWest 9 spoke with Judge Keyes on Monday and he says if five percent of voters sign a petition, then they'll hold an election.

He said at this point, no one opposing the new facility has attended any meetings. The Judge says, they have so many inmates right now, the current property wouldn't be big enough.